Museum celebrates 125 years of showcasing Goessel items

From left, Kauffman Museum volunteer Steve Kreider Yoder, San Francisco, museum technician Dave Kreider and volunteer Jim Mueller, Halstead, ready a hearse for the museum’s 125th-anniversary special exhibit that opens Feb. 19. The horse-drawn hearse dates from the 1890s and was used in the Goessel, Kan., community.

NORTH NEWTON, Kan. – To celebrate the depth and breadth of what is now Kauffman Museum, the newest special exhibit, opening Feb. 19, is “The Magic of Things: 5 Continents, 25 Centuries, 125 Years of Collecting.”

In December 1896, students and friends of Bethel College announced the formation of a Museum of Natural History and American Relics at the college.

Starting in 1941, Charles Kauffman began integrating his personal collections with the Bethel museum, eventually opening “Kauffman Museum” to the public. The current building was completed in 1983.

Current and former staff have selected more than 100 artifacts and animal specimens to illustrate how objects astonish collectors, donors and museum staff.

Items in “The Magic of Things” are not on permanent display, and many are being exhibited for the first time.

Reinhild Kauenhoven Janzen of rural Newton was Kauffman Museum’s curator of cultural history from 1983-93 and serves as lead curator for “The Magic of Things.”

Said Janzen, “I have always been fascinated by the global and deep historical reach of Kauffman Museum’s collections, so I selected a statuette from ancient Egypt, 20th-century Chinese Buddhist paintings and 21st-century African ritual pottery.”

Demonstrating the exhibition’s subtitle are a ngoma drum from a Zimbabwean healer and a 1914 Indian motorcycle, a Mesopotamian cuneiform tablet from 524 BCE and a Macintosh computer from 1986, and a red-sided eclectus parrot from New Guinea and a horse-drawn hearse from a Goessel, Kan., funeral home.

Steve Friesen of Littleton, Colo., was director of Kauffman Museum from 1975-77 and joined the exhibit team for “The Magic of Things.”

“I have always returned to my roots at Bethel College and Kauffman Museum,” Friesen said. “It is a special joy for me to select Charles Kauffman’s rather unusual folk creations using animal horns, hide and hair to construct chairs and decorative items for the home.”

Other guest curators are current museum staff Andi Schmidt Andres, director, Dave Kreider, exhibit technician, Austin Prouty, exhibit assistant, Chuck Regier, curator of exhibits, and Kristin Schmidt, museum assistant; former directors John M. Janzen and Michael Reinschmidt; director emeritus Rachel Pannabecker; emeritus Bethel faculty and longtime museum contributors Dwight Platt and Bob Regier; and former museum staffer Renae Stucky.

Kauffman Museum welcomes the public to the grand opening of “The Magic of Things” from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Feb. 19. Many of the guest curators will be present. Lead curator Reinhild Janzen will give remarks at 3 p.m.

For more information on the exhibit, the public programs and current COVID protocols, visit or the Kauffman Museum Facebook page, or contact the museum at or 316-283-1612.

Regular Kauffman Museum hours are Tues.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 1:30-4:30 p.m., closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the special exhibit and the permanent exhibits – “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture” – is $4 for adults, $2 for children ages 6-16, and free to Kauffman Museum members and children under 6. The museum store is open during the museum’s regular hours.

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